PBS NewsHour full episode, Nov. 24, 2021

PBS NewsHour full episode, Nov. 24, 2021

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AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening. I'm Amna Nawaz. Judy Woodruff is away. On the "NewsHour" tonight: JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, Eastern Circuit Superior Court: We, the jury, find the defendant, Travis McMichael, guilty. AMNA NAWAZ: All three men involved in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery have been convicted in a case that was seen as a measure of racial justice in the United States. Then: desperate journey. Kurdish migrants return home after being used as pawns in a

geopolitical struggle in Europe. JEEHAN HARBI, Returned Migrant (through translator): We reached Lithuania. They beat us and sent us to Belarus. Then Belarus sent us back to Lithuania. It's like they were playing football with us. AMNA NAWAZ: And defending Earth. NASA launches a mission to deflect an asteroid in a major test of game-changing technology that could protect our planet from future celestial threats.

All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Three white men were found guilty today on multiple counts of murder and other charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who00:55:23 was Black. Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan were convicted on charges of felony murder for chasing and killing Arbery in Georgia last year. Bryan

and Greg McMichael were acquitted of malice murder, which is connected with intent to kill. The verdict was closely watched around the country. JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, Eastern Circuit Superior Court: The state of Georgia vs. Travis McMichael,

case number CR000433. Jury verdict form, count one, malice murder. "We the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty." (CHEERING) AMNA NAWAZ: The three could face life sentences in prison. Before video of the shooting was

leaked, it was more than two months before anyone was arrested. Ahmaud Arbery, who was never armed, was shot in February 2020 while he was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia. The McMichaels pursued him in a pickup truck, and Bryan joined them moments later. They claimed Arbery resembled a suspect in a series of break-ins. After a struggle, three shots were fired, two of which struck Arbery in the chest. Moments after the verdict was read today, a crowd erupted in cheers outside the Glynn County courthouse.

And Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, spoke of her son. WANDA COOPER-JONES, Mother of Ahmaud Arbery: I just want to tell everybody thank you, thank you for those who marched, those who prayed, most of all the ones who prayed. MAN: Yes, lord. WANDA COOPER-JONES: Thank you, God. Thank you. And now, Quez, which I -- you know him as Ahmaud. I know him as Quez. he will now rest

in peace. WOMAN: Amen! AMNA NAWAZ: Arbery's murder and this trial proved to be another key moment in the ongoing conversation around racial justice and the legal system. Paul Butler is professor at Georgetown Law and a former federal prosecutor. He joins me now.

Paul Butler, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Thanks for being with us. So, this is obviously an incredibly high profile case. Even President Biden issued a statement in response to the verdict. But, Paul Butler, generally speaking, how did you react? What went through your mind when you heard the verdict today? PAUL BUTLER, Professor, George Washington University School of Law: Amna, in her closing statement to the jury, the prosecutor had this refrain. It was the 911 call that one of the defendants made, when he said his emergency was black man running.

And those words, there's an American history of racial violence and white supremacy and unequal justice under the law. And you might say that, today, these jurors disrupted that history. Criminal trials are not designed to be instruments of social change. They're about bringing individual wrongdoers to justice. But, sometimes, verdicts reveal something about social progress. Today, we learned that, in Glynn County, Georgia, in a trial in which three white men hunted down and killed a black man, those men were convicted by a virtually all-white jury. In this country, that counts as progress.

AMNA NAWAZ: Paul Butler, we don't always hear from defendants in cases, but Travis McMichael took the stand in his defense. In hindsight -- and that was seen to be a key moment in the trial. In hindsight, what do you make of that decision? PAUL BUTLER: Defendants in murder cases typically don't take the stand. But when self-defense is an issue, jurors like to hear from the accused person. They want to know his story. Travis McMichael didn't have a story to rebut the compelling evidence that he didn't act in self-defense, that he started the fight when he chased Mr. Arbery

and then shot him, that there was no legal justification. So, whether he took the stand or not, I don't think made a difference, based on the prosecution's evidence. AMNA NAWAZ: Self-defense was central to this case. It was also central to another high-profile case that we had a verdict in recently. That was Kyle Rittenhouse., of course, in Wisconsin. Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges.

McMichael and -- both McMichaels and Mr. Bryan were not. And I have to mention, after the Rittenhouse verdict, you wrote this in an op-ed. You said: "He is now the poster child for reactionary white men who seek to take the law in their own hands." Does today's verdict change that? PAUL BUTLER: Every case has different facts. Mr. Rittenhouse persuaded a jury that each of the three men he shot posed a deadly threat to him. He said one man tried to grab his gun, another attacked him with a skateboard,

and the third aimed a gun at him. In contrast, in the Georgia case, Mr. Arbery was unarmed. So it was harder for those defendants to say that they thought he was going to kill him. Another difference is that Mr. Rittenhouse had a $2 million legal defense fund that allowed his lawyers to stage two practice trials, one where Mr. Rittenhouse took the stand and another where he didn't take the stand.

So, as far as we know, the defendants in Georgia didn't have those resources. AMNA NAWAZ: Paul, if there was no video in this case, do you think we'd have the verdict that we saw today? PAUL BUTLER: If there was no video on this case, Amna, I don't think we would have had a prosecution. Remember, no charges were wrought for months after these defendants killed Mr. Arbery. On the day that they killed him, they were allowed to go home. It wasn't until the video of Mr. Arbery's tragic death went viral that the police and prosecutors acted interested

in this case at all. AMNA NAWAZ: All three men will now go to federal court in a matter of weeks to face federal hate crime charges as well. Based on what you have seen in the past, Paul, what do you expect to happen there? PAUL BUTLER: In the federal case, the defendants are charged with hate crimes, which means, if they are convicted, their sentence will be enhanced based on racial animus that the jury finds. In the state case, the prosecution rarely brought up race. It had evidence of racism by the defendants, but it didn't use that evidence. The most disturbing was that one

defendant said that Travis McMichael called Mr. Arbery the N-word work after he shot him. We can be certain that the prosecution will try to get that evidence in, in the federal case. I think, in the state case, the prosecutors were concerned that -- I think, in the state case, the prosecutors were concerned about looking like they were injecting race in the case, especially before this virtually all-white jury. They gambled in the state case that they could win their case without this evidence. And they were right. I will be interested to see if the defense changes its tactics with regard to race in the federal case.

In the state case, they consistently evoked race, including in problematic ways. One lawyer complained that there weren't enough white men over 40 in the jury pool. That same lawyer tried to get black ministers excluded from the courtroom. And another defense attorney

talked about Mr. Arbery's long dirty toenails. But this virtually all-white jury did not let them get away with those racist tropes. And that's a sign of progress. AMNA NAWAZ: That is Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor, now professor at Georgetown law.

Paul, good to see you. Thanks for your time. PAUL BUTLER: Always a pleasure, Amna. AMNA NAWAZ: The U.S. economy has turned out striking new numbers, with unemployment claims at their lowest since 1969 and inflation at its highest since 1990.

The Labor Department reported today that first-time applications for jobless benefits fell to 199,000 last week, and the Commerce Department found consumer prices rose 5 percent in October from one year earlier. The higher prices contributed to a rise in consumer spending, up 1.3 percent last month. The European Union warned today that a record new rise in COVID cases is threatening the bloc's economic recovery. A number of European governments have reimposed restrictions. And

the World Health Organization says vaccines have given people a false sense of security. DR. MICHAEL J. RYAN, World Health Organization: Even in the midst of a very, very strong resurgence in cases and even in the midst of some of those countries under huge pressure in their health systems, we are seeing pre-pandemic levels of social mixing, gatherings and many other things. And the reality is, the virus will continue to transmit intensely in that environment.

AMNA NAWAZ: Austria went into lockdown mode this week, and Slovakia approved its own lockdown today. France will announce new restrictions tomorrow. At least 31 migrants died today trying to sail from France to Britain. Their boat sank off the English Channel off Calais. Four suspected traffickers were arrested later. This was the deadliest such incident yet. Attempted channel crossings by people fleeing Afghanistan,

Iraq and elsewhere have grown sharply this year. In Germany, three major parties have agreed to form a coalition government two months after national elections. Olaf Scholz, leader of the center-left Social Democrats, will become chancellor. That will end Angela Merkel's 16 years as chancellor, leading the major center-right party. The coalition also includes the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentalist Greens. Sweden's first female prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, resigned today just hours after she was appointed to the post. She won parliamentary approval today as prime minister, then lost

a budget vote. With that, her coalition partner, the Greens, quit the minority government, and Andersson stepped down. MAGDALENA ANDERSSON, Leader, Social Democratic Party (through translator): Although the parliamentary base appears to be unchanged when it comes to the government, it ought to be tested by Parliament anew. For me, it's a question of respect.

But I also don't want to lead a government where there could be reasons to question its legitimacy. AMNA NAWAZ: Andersson said she is still interested in leading a one-party government run by her center-left Social Democrats. Back in this country, millions of Americans were on the move today, as Thanksgiving travel neared pre-pandemic levels. That's despite higher gas prices and a new surge in COVID-19

infections. Lines of people were seen at airports in Houston, Miami, New York, and elsewhere, and highways were full. The travel group AAA estimated well over 50 million people headed out for the holiday. President Biden, meanwhile, has tapped Shalanda Young to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget. She has been serving as acting director. If confirmed by the Senate, Young would be the first Black woman to lead the Budget Office on a permanent basis.

And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nine points to close at 35804. The Nasdaq rose 70 points, and the S&P 500 added 10. Still to come on the "NewsHour": partisan wrangling over district maps that could decide control of Congress; author John Feinstein discusses his new book on racial struggles in sports; the history behind the White House tradition of pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys; plus much more.

Well, thousands of migrants remain trapped at the border between Belarus and Poland, now with the snow falling, and many living without shelter. They're pawns in a standoff between the leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, and the European Union. And while many migrants remain, many have decided to return home. In a moment, special correspondent Simona Foltyn will report from Northern Iraq on some who've returned there. But, first, Ali Rogin starts with the situation in Belarus. ALI ROGIN: On the Belarus side of the border with Poland, migrants who once hid in the woods are now stacked in government warehouses. They clamor for electrical outlets. They use

outdoor hoses to bathe in the freezing cold. It beats sleeping in the forest, but not by much. Despite the shelter, the migrants are still left out in the cold, caught in a power play by Europe's last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. MELINDA HARING, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council: Lukashenko has orchestrated the migrant crisis on the border, and it's retribution for E.U. sanctions. ALI ROGIN: Melinda Haring is the deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank. She said that, as Lukashenko became more authoritarian and more isolated in the West, he sought ways to appear legitimate.

MELINDA HARING: He is saying: I control the migrants. I'm in charge of the situation here, and you're going to have to negotiate with me. ALI ROGIN: His regime used social media campaigns, offering visas, direct flights and hotel reservations to people in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. They lured migrants to Belarus with the promise of getting to the European Union. But when they arrived, authorities abandoned them at European borders. In response, the

European Union threatened new sanctions. In the past week, camps on the Belarus side of the border have disappeared. MELINDA HARING: It reached such a fever pitch that Lukashenko had to back down. ALI ROGIN: Belarus sent some migrants to the warehouses, and many others back towards Europe. These siblings from Syria said Belarus officials drove them to the Polish border.

MAN (through translator): They forced us every day to cross the Polish border. They told us: "You either die in Belarus or you keep pushing towards Poland." ALI ROGIN: An aid group found the siblings, and Polish border guards reviewed their documents. But most migrants on the Polish border are treated harshly, leading to scenes like this, pushed out by Belarus state TV, of clashes between guards and civilians. Aid workers

say Poland set up an exclusion zone from which they are forbidden. Stefan Lehmeier is the deputy director of Europe programs for the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian group. STEFAN LEHMEIER, International Rescue Committee: Anybody who is in there and needs help can only get that help from local residents, if those local residents respond or happen to find them. We cannot go in and help them, and even ambulances are turned away. ALI ROGIN: He said Poland won't process asylum claims. STEFAN LEHMEIER: These asylum seekers know that they will have a hard time having their asylum claim assessed by Poland. They know that, most likely, if they get caught here

in this country, they will be pushed back into Belarus, which would be disastrous for them. ALI ROGIN: Poland says it is fighting a Russian-backed scheme to destabilize Europe. MATEUSZ MORAWIECKI, Polish Prime Minister (through translator): Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of a longer crisis that Lukashenko's regime has caused, probably directed by the Kremlin. It is an attempt to breach the Eastern border of NATO and the European Union. ALI ROGIN: But the scenes on the border play straight into Lukashenko's hands. ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, President of Belarus (through translator): We need to show the poles that we are not barbarians. We don't want any escalation, but we will protect those

hapless folks as much as we can. MELINDA HARING: So, this is a great opportunity for Lukashenko. Lukashenko can get in their face and say: You guys are hypocrites. You say you believe in international law. Well, how on earth are you pushing people back to Belarus? ALI ROGIN: Sick of being pawns in a long game, cold, tired, and abused, many migrants are now heading home. SIMONA FOLTYN: I'm Simona Foltyn in Northern Iraq.

This is the final stop of a two-month-long odyssey to reach Europe, a half-finished house in a dusty, desolate suburb of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. This Kurdish family of eight sold all their belongings and borrowed $20,000 to pay for the journey to Belarus, in hopes of reaching Germany. Instead, they became pawns in the geopolitical tug-of-war between Belarus and the European Union. Jeehan Harbi tells me their story. JEEHAN HARBI, Returned Migrant (through translator): We reached Lithuania. They beat us and sent us to Belarus. Then Belarus sent us back to Lithuania. It's like they were playing football

with us. SIMONA FOLTYN: For weeks, they camped out in the forest, braving freezing temperatures. Jeehan's husband, Dhiyab, pictured here, was badly beaten by border police on both sides.

The sixth time Lithuanians forcibly returned them to Belarus, the family decided to return home traumatized, humiliated, with the heavy burden of repaying their debt. DHIYAB ZEYDAN, Returned Migrant (through translator): I have nothing left here. I will work as a daily laborer to return the money, but I don't know if I will manage.

SIMONA FOLTYN: The family is among hundreds of Iraqi Kurds who've returned over the past week, many on government repatriation flights. To claim asylum in Germany, Jeehan and Dhiyab had planned to cite threats and the kidnapping and killing of a relative during Iraq's sectarian conflict in 2007, when they lived in the Sunni Arab majority city of Mosul. But they have lived in Kurdistan for 14 years now. What's really driving them away is poverty and what they call an unjust government.

DHIYAB ZEYDAN, Returned Migrant (through translator): They don't do a good job for the poor people. They just work for themselves. SIMONA FOLTYN: He is referring to the Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, which runs this part of Iraq. Kurdistan is often described as a beacon of stability. The region has better infrastructure and services than other parts of Iraq, and has offered refuge to persecuted minorities and activists fleeing violence elsewhere in the country. But beneath this veneer of stability, many Kurds don't see a future amid a prolonged economic crisis and rising authoritarianism. Kurdish officials, however, blame their woes on long-lasting disputes over oil revenue with the federal government in Baghdad.

DINDAR ZEBARI, International Advocacy Coordinator, Kurdistan Regional Government: The KRG has one million, above, public sector members and staff, civil servants, but, unfortunately, we're cut off of sort of full budget and payments from Baghdad for seven years. SIMONA FOLTYN: In the nearby town of Rania, the city center teems with unemployed men. Those we spoke to blamed not Baghdad, but nepotism and corruption inside Kurdistan's own government, long dominated by two families and their respective political parties.

These two friends are both recent university graduates. One is a licensed lawyer, the other a microbiologist who graduated top of his class. Neither has been able to find work. HANGAW ALI, Attorney (through translator): If you have political support, you can go far in many fields. But if you don't have political support, nobody will hire you. SIMONA FOLTYN: And so the only option they see is to head for Europe, no matter how.

The window of opportunity to reach the E.U. through Belarus may be closing, but, already, travel agencies here in Iraqi Kurdistan are offering package deals for other European countries. A ticket and visa to Croatia for example, sells for 7,000 U.S. dollars. It's a price many here are willing to pay. We meet a man who facilitates trips to Europe through a group on the messaging app Telegram. He claims that he isn't a smuggler, but wanted to remain anonymous, for fear of authorities. He explains how the process works.

MAN (through translator): People will give the money to an intermediary in Irbil. When they reach their final destination in Germany, they will confirm that they are at a certain hotel in Germany, and the intermediary will release the payment to the smuggler. SIMONA FOLTYN: The Kurdish government has vowed to crack down on these networks. But without addressing the structural issues fueling the latest exodus of Iraqis, the crisis at Europe's borders is likely to endure. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Simona Foltyn in Iraqi Kurdistan. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, NASA has launched a satellite into orbit on a mission to smash itself into an asteroid.

It's a test to see whether it is possible to knock a speeding space rock off-course if one were on a collision course with Earth. We should say, the asteroid targeted in this case is not a threat to our planet. But to break it all down, I'm now joined by "PBS NewsHour" science correspondent Miles O'Brien. Miles, welcome back. Always good to see you.

Tell us a little bit about this mission and what NASA hopes to accomplish here. MILES O'BRIEN: Well, as you just mentioned, it's the first spacecraft launched to test the idea of defending Earth against an asteroid or a comet that puts a bullseye on us. It's a refrigerator-sized spacecraft. It was launched on top of a Falcon 9 rocket in the early hours of the day from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. So far, no problems.

It's a $310 million mission and 10-month journey, millions of miles to an asteroid. And they're focused on its tiny moon. DART is expected to impact that asteroid on September 6. So, mark your calendars. AMNA NAWAZ: And DART, of course, stands for? MILES O'BRIEN: It is the dual -- no, excuse me -- the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. And called that because it's a binary system of asteroids. Didymos, the big one, is 2,

500-feet-long. That's epic. And its moon, Dimorphos, is about 500 feet in length. That's about the size of the Washington Monument. DART is aiming for Dimorphos. And the idea is to just nudge it, crash in and change the speed just enough, by literally about a centimeter per second, or 2/100ths of a mile-per-hour. That doesn't sound like much, but if you nudge something like that far enough ahead of a date of impact, it could turn a city killer into a near miss and a fun night for astronomers. (LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: So, it's traveling a very long way to hit a very, very small bullseye.

How are they going to pull this off? And how will we know if it actually works? MILES O'BRIEN: Well, we're going to have some photographic proof. I will tell you about that in a sec. It is 6.8 million miles away. And it's a tiny little rock. It is a feat of navigation ingenuity, but there's -- it's not hand flying. There's no way you could do that. So it will home in on the little asteroid autonomously.

It has a camera on board, some imaging software to identify its target, and then just crash right in, we hope. There is a tiny CubeSat that's attached to the big spacecraft. It will separate right before the impact. It's got a couple of cameras on board, and it will document it. And that's -- as you know, we call that the money shot, Amna. We know what this might

look like. In 2005, there was a spacecraft called Deep Impact. It plowed into a comic called Tempel 1. The goal of that mission wasn't planetary protection, but rather just to kick up some dust and look and see what the comment was made of.

But they found out he did change its orbit. AMNA NAWAZ: So, Miles, we should be clear, this asteroid, this particular asteroid is not a threat. But how big is the concern about an asteroid like it or a comet striking Earth and causing some kind of calamity? MILES O'BRIEN: Yes, Dimorphos is the size of a kind of object that hits Earth every few 1,000 years, Amna. It would cause regional devastation. It's a big deal.

We do live in a rough neighborhood. You want proof, take a look at the moon and the craters. Most of them get covered up here on Earth, including the giant crater that was created 65 million years ago after a big asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. City killers are more common. In February of 2013, we saw a shot across the Bow. A 60-foot-wide asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. It's equivalent to 30 atomic bombs, and it injured 1, 500 people, because they all went to their windows. And the windows broken.

And many people got cut. The most important thing really is to catalog all these objects. We know where 90 percent of the Earth-enders are, so we're ahead of the dinosaurs. But we still have a lot of

work to do on the larger, but not-that-large objects. Only 30 percent of those regional disaster rocks have been identified. So we have a lot of work to do. AMNA NAWAZ: So sending the refrigerator sized spacecraft millions of miles away to nudge an asteroid off-course, is that the best plan we have if something were to target Earth? MILES O'BRIEN: Well, we could recruit a team of misfit oil roustabouts by Bruce Willis, send them out there to blow it up. But maybe we should leave that one to Hollywood. The impact idea actually is just one idea. There's another idea to use a so-called gravity tractor. That's a spacecraft that would be near an object, hover it, or orbit, and that

would just perturb its trajectory just enough to move it out of harm's way. And if the chips are really down, and there wasn't much time, and Bruce Willis was holding out for more money, you could launch a nuclear bomb into space and explode it near a big object, hoping to nudge it out of our direction and out of harm's way. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

AMNA NAWAZ: Here is hoping. Here is hoping. Miles O'Brien, "PBS NewsHour" science correspondent, thanks, and always, always good to see you. MILES O'BRIEN: You're welcome, Amna. AMNA NAWAZ: Political lines are changing as states across the country redraw their congressional maps, a process with huge implications for the balance of power in Washington. Lisa Desjardins has more. LISA DESJARDINS: The congressional redistricting process that takes place every 10 years is in full swing, and the stakes are even higher than usual because the margins in Congress are so tight. Democrats control the House of Representatives by just three seats.

Due to population changes, this year, six states, most in the South, gained a congressional district, with Texas adding two more seats. In turn seven states, largely in the Rust Belt, will be losing a seat. Adding to that drama, consider, these maps are being made in a pandemic and amidst razor-sharp political divide. To dive in, I'm joined by two redistricting heavyweights, David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report, and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post. Let me just start by setting the table for the two of you. In just a few words, can you describe this redistricting process right now, David? DAVID WASSERMAN, The Cook Political Report: It's an arms race. And Republicans have an

upper hand in it. They're likely to benefit in terms of seats by a modest amount. But the biggest victim in all of this gerrymandering is competition. We're likely to see the number of competitive seats in the House reduced by as much as a third. LISA DESJARDINS: And, Colby? COLBY ITKOWITZ, The Washington Post: I would add to that disappointing for voting rights advocates, for voters who over the last decade had approved ballot initiatives by huge margins asking for politics and partisanship to be taken out of this process.

And, in so many states, it still remains to be the case that politicians are drawing lines and choosing voters, instead of voters choosing them. LISA DESJARDINS: OK, let's dive in first with the where, looking at some of the maps. We have picked to illustrative states, and we're going to start with Illinois, first of all. Here is what the state congressional maps look like at this moment before they

are changed. You see, red and blue divide, red Republican, blue for the Democrats, and, of course, yellow for competitive states. Then here is the new map as it stands right now. You see a change with that more blue

growing and that new blue district through the middle in the bottom. David, what's going on in Illinois? DAVID WASSERMAN: This is pretty aggressive Democratic gerrymander. And, currently, Illinois' 13 Republicans and five Democrats, Governor J.B. Pritzker just signed a map into law that aims to give Democrats 14 seats to just three for Republicans. Now, of course, just because you draw a map doesn't win you -- doesn't mean you automatically win the seats.

Democrats could still see a couple of districts backfire on them if they have a bad cycle. But it just goes to show the lengths to which parties go to, to try and entrench their advantage. LISA DESJARDINS: All right, let's talk about the Lone Star State with the two-seat pickup, Texas. Here is what the Texas congressional map looks like right now. You notice those competitive seats there down around Houston and a little bit north. Here is where Texas is moving to,

the new map. You see now more blue states and not just one strip of yellow becoming more partisan. Colby, Texas is a state that has gained largely because of the gain in its most diverse population. What do these seats mean? What's happening there? COLBY ITKOWITZ: So, of the about four million new population found in the census in Texas, more than two million of that came from Latinos, and Latinos did not gain a new district in this map.

And so there's a lot of litigation going on about that particular issue. Now, when you look at the map, it looks like it's pretty fair to Democrats. To your point, there is more blue. Of the two seats that Texas gained, one is going to Democrats around Austin. Republicans

are taking the other. What the Republicans have strategically done is, they have shored up their incumbents, and they have also taken away competitive seats. There's only that one competitive seat left. And what that means is that the demographics of Texas continue to change as more Latinos continue to move into the state. They're trying to ensure that those competitive seats wouldn't

have turned blue. Now they're safe for Republicans for the better part of the next decade. LISA DESJARDINS: And, of course, both of these states, like many, are going to see a number of lawsuits over all of these maps. In the meanwhile, I also want to ask you all about the who. Who is drawing these maps, the mapmakers? We have seen something changed this year that's really interesting.

I want to show our viewers which states have independent redistricting commissions. You sum all that up, as I know you have, David, and more than a quarter of congressional seats are being mapped out by these independent redistricting commissions. David, what do the maps made by those independent commissions look like so far? And what do we think that means in the end? DAVID WASSERMAN: So, Colorado and Montana, both of which are gaining a seat, have commissions. They have passed maps that create districts that could be competitive next year. But commissions are a big reason why Democrats are at a disadvantage here, because a number of blue states, like California, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington state, they have adopted these reforms, whereas redder states, like Texas, have not. And so Republicans have the power to draw more than twice as many congressional districts as Democrats. And that's a reason why they're favored for House control next year.

LISA DESJARDINS: Colby, one thing about these commissions I'm not sure everyone understands, the idea of an independent commission doesn't necessarily mean the map will be nonpartisan. Where are we seeing examples that perhaps the state legislature still is intervening in here, when perhaps voters wanted something outside of the legislature to act? COLBY ITKOWITZ: Well, one state that we're still waiting to see what they do is New York. New York voters passed what was called an advisory commission. An advisory commission

went around the state of independent actors that were put on this commission. They went around New York, holding public hearings. They put together maps, and they went around holding hearings again on those maps. But it's not binding. And so the map that they put together, the Democratic legislature

in New York, with a Democratic governor can just override what they did, and draw a map to their advantage. And like Dave said, the Democrats are at such a disadvantage in this process overall, is that you look to places like Illinois and New York, and you think, do you think do the Democrats unilaterally disarm, or do they try to draw lines as much to their advantage as possible, so that they can try to keep the House? LISA DESJARDINS: One last question for you both. Can you talk about the arms race, as I think you called it, David, here? How much money is going into all of this? How much does this process impact who is in charge in our government vs. other things we talk about, like voting rights, all of those debates? Can you explain to viewers what's involved and the stakes right now, David? DAVID WASSERMAN: Yes, redistricting tends to get less attention than fights over voting procedures, but it's much more consequential to outcome. That's why the parties are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into legal fights and strategy over redistricting. Keep in mind that, because neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has acted to put up any guardrails against gerrymandering, state supreme courts could be the last backstop against the most extreme impulses of partisans who are in charge of drawing maps, essentially choosing their own voters to benefit their own party's electoral prospects.

LISA DESJARDINS: Colby, what stakes do you see? COLBY ITKOWITZ: Absolutely. I mean, Nancy Pelosi is holding on to the House, like you noted, by a very, very slim margin. And so when you draw these lines, any little bit, a shift of the seat here or a seat there, could mean the Republicans take control in 2022.

And so there is so much at stake. There legal fights in almost all of the states that have drawn maps. The Republicans are going to fight in places like Illinois, in places like Maryland and New York. And the Democrats are going to hype everywhere else. And you're going to see this thing play out for years and years and years just to try to get back a seat or two, because that's how fraught this process is. LISA DESJARDINS: Not getting a lot of sleep right now, and we appreciate it.

David Wasserman and Colby Itkowitz, thank you both. COLBY ITKOWITZ: Thank you. DAVID WASSERMAN: Thanks, Lisa.

AMNA NAWAZ: Many of you may be catching up on some football over Thanksgiving and the holiday weekend. And, as sports fans know, the NFL's handling of issues around race and politics in the past has sparked controversy and debate. Judy Woodruff has a conversation about a new book that examines the larger struggles in that league and others when it comes to race.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Activism, politics and racial discrimination have long intersected with sports. But many athletes have become more vocal in recent years about those issues. Pro football's Colin Kaepernick put himself front and center when he took a knee back in 2016 to protest racial injustice and treatment by police. A new book looks at these and the many other battles Black athletes have long faced. It is called "Raise a Fist, Take a Knee: Race and the Illusion of Progress in Modern Sports." Its author, sportswriter John Feinstein, joins me now. And, John Feinstein, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

JOHN FEINSTEIN, Author, "Raise a Fist, Take a Knee: Race and the Illusion of Progress in Modern Sports": Judy, always good to be back. Thanks. JUDY WOODRUFF: You have written, what is it, more than 40 books, almost all of them about sports. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you told me that this may be the most important one. JOHN FEINSTEIN: It is to me because of the subject matter. I have written about a lot of different people in sports, as you well know, in different sports. But, for years, doing what I do, I have -- I think I have had some understanding that race plays a role in our entire society, as we see all the time nowadays, but very much in sports.

It's not hard, if you're a player, to get a chance to play, because playing is a meritocracy. But getting a job as a head coach in the NFL, getting a job as a head coach in football or basketball, general managers jobs, CEO jobs, those are much harder. And there are numbers that back up those facts. In fact, the last 20 NFL jobs that opened -- 75 percent of the players are Black -- two Black coaches have been hired. And believe me when I tell you there are plenty of qualified candidates for these jobs, and they're not getting them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to ask you about that. And I want to ask you to start with football. We know that a lot has changed with regard to Black athletes and what they were able to do in football. It was, what, not too many decades ago Blacks were considered unfit to be a quarterback. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, today, if you list, what, the half-dozen or so top quarterbacks in the country Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, they're there. They're at the top. But it's been a torturous path. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, it has been. And you go back to Marlin Briscoe, who was the first quarterback who played in either the AFL or the NFL 1968 in Denver. He was second in the rookie of the year voting, and

never got a chance to play quarterback in the NFL again. James Harris, who was the first black quarterback to start for a team that went to the playoffs, was told he would be drafted much higher than the eighth round if he would change positions. That's what they did in those days. They would ask black quarterbacks to change positions because they were fast, and because they weren't "smart enough" -- quote, unquote -- to play the position. But even now, Judy, with all the progress we have made -- that's a reason for the subtitle -- Lamar Jackson when he came out of Louisville in 2018 was told to change positions, 50 years after Marlin Briscoe, become a wide receiver, become a running back. And he refused.

Four white quarterbacks were drafted in the top 10 that year. Lamar Jackson only went in the first round because he was the last pick chosen by Ozzie Newsome, the first black general manager in the history of the NFL, and we all know what's happened. Lamar Jackson has been an MVP, and he is by far the best of that quarterback group. But they wanted -- and he loves to come in after he's had a good game and go, "Not bad for a running back." (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: I mentioned in the lead-in to this Colin Kaepernick, famously took a knee six years ago. He was singled out. He was attacked by former President Trump.

Has he been blackballed by the NFL because of race? JOHN FEINSTEIN: Is Thanksgiving coming up? I mean, absolutely, 100 percent, he's been blackballed, not because of race, but because he knelt, because he took on the establishment, because he said: I see wrong and I'm going to not stand up for it, but kneel for it. And he -- people forget he was the starting quarterback in San Francisco the last 11 games of the 2016 season, and then couldn't get a job? He couldn't -- nobody would sign him even as a backup? There are 64 quarterback jobs -- quarterbacking jobs in the NFL. And he wasn't -- all of a sudden, he wasn't one of the best 64 quarterbacks? And NFL people, largely through the white media, have claimed, oh, he wasn't as good a player, he couldn't get a job because he wasn't that good. No, he couldn't get a job because he was blackballed. And Roger Goodell basically admitted it. JUDY WOODRUFF: You do dedicate the book -- one of the people you dedicate it to is another coach, a college basketball coach, John Thompson, famed coach at Georgetown.

Tell us about him. You had a somewhat tempestuous relationship, and about what he said to you, that he wanted you, a white man, to write this book. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right. After he retired, we became friends. And he became a mentor to me, because John was as smart as anybody I have ever met in any walk of life. And when I knew I wanted to try to

write a book like this, it was during the 2017 anthem protests, when I would sit in a football stadium on Sunday, and hear the fans, 90 percent of them white, booing the players, 90 percent of them black, who were kneeling. And I went to see John. And I said: "I want to write a book about race in sports." And he laughed. And he said in that deep voice of his: "You might as well try to explain the Holy Trinity." And then he pointed at me and said, "But that's why you have to do it." And several of my African-American colleagues, Kevin Blackistone, Michael Wilbon, said the same thing to me. I can't claim to understand the black experience, but I can't claim to

understand what it's like to be a big-time college basketball coach, and I have written about them for years and years, because I have been able to talk to them. Same with this book. I talked to about 100 guys. All of them had different stories, but I think they were stories that need to be told. JUDY WOODRUFF: Not all black athletes have chosen to be activists. JOHN FEINSTEIN: True. JUDY WOODRUFF: We think of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods. And there are others.

But you write in the book about how every -- and you talked to scores of black athletes. JOHN FEINSTEIN: I did. JUDY WOODRUFF: Every single one of them, you said, it's as if they have two jobs. One is

to be -- to do their job, but the other one is to be a black man. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you talked about driving while black. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Driving while black. I did not interview one black person who had not had at least one experience with driving while black, pulled over for no apparent reason. And the first question is always, where'd you get this car? Because a black person, in the minds of many police, shouldn't be driving a nice car, especially at night.

There's a story that Doc Rivers, the coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, told me about one of his teammates, Kenny Norman, making the mistake of stopping to get gas in South Central L.A., and the next thing he knew he was across the hood of his car with handcuffs on, because the cops pulled up and just assumed that the car was stolen. My favorite story, though, is about Cullen Jones, the Olympic swimmer, who went out one night to walk his dog. And a police car went by, made a U-turn, came back, and the police officer said, "Where did you get that dog?" "It's my dog."

"What kind of dog is it?" "It's a bulldog terrier." "How long have you had it?" "Since he was a puppy." And the guy goes, "OK," and then he drives away. And I said to Cullen well, you're the first person I have interviewed who was a victim of WDWB, walking dog while black. That was different.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last thing, fans. You talked about the fans reacting over the last few years to what's happened. What role do they play in all this? JOHN FEINSTEIN: That's a great question.

And I think they affect management with the way they react to activism, that, if management senses that fewer people are going to buy tickets, the ratings might go down -- TV ratings went down in 2017. And Donald Trump was saying that's all because of all these guys kneeling. I don't think it was because of that. But I do think that management is very conscious of that. JUDY WOODRUFF: Such an important story. So many important stories in here, "Raise a Fist, Take a Knee: Race and the Illusion of Progress in Modern Sports."

John Feinstein, thank you very much. JOHN FEINSTEIN: Judy, thanks for having me. Happy Thanksgiving. AMNA NAWAZ: In between muscling the Build Back Better act through the House of Representatives and departing for the holiday, President Biden made time for another executive duty, the pardoning of two turkeys. Lisa Desjardins is back now with this report on how the Thanksgiving tradition began.

JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: I pardon you. LISA DESJARDINS: A new president carrying on an old Thanksgiving tradition. JOE BIDEN: There you go. (LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: Before leaving Washington for the holiday, President Biden spared two lucky turkeys, Peanut Butter and Jelly, from the dinner or lunch table. JOE BIDEN: I have to admit to you -- my wife doesn't like me to admit it -- that's what I like for lunch, peanut butter and jelly.

LISA DESJARDINS: Sprinkling in political dad jokes, Biden said he's nuts about progress on his Build Back Better bill and joked about his bird in the hand, the new infrastructure law. JOE BIDEN: Folks, turkey is infrastructure. Peanut Butter and Jelly are going to help build back the Butterball. LISA DESJARDINS: This tradition has happened every November for the past quarter-century. But there are some, let's say, ruffled feathers about how it all got started.

BILL CLINTON, Former President Of The United States: President Truman was the first president to pardon a turkey. LISA DESJARDINS: Nope, not true. Truman was the first president to receive a turkey from the National Turkey Federation. But there's no record of a pardon.

According to the White House Historical Association, Truman instead quipped that the birds would come in handy for Christmas dinner. So, who was the first president to save a turkey? Lincoln is the first on record. After the appeal of his young son Tad, the Christmas turkey became a pet.

President John F. Kennedy was the first to spare a Thanksgiving bird. In 1963, despite a sign hanging around the turkey's neck that read, "Good eating, Mr. President," Kennedy sent the gobbler back to the farm. Richard Nixon followed, retiring his turkeys to a nearby petting zoo. Ronald Reagan carved out a spot in history himself by being the first to use the word pardon when talking turkey in 1987. The tradition became formalized in 1989, with President George H.W. Bush. GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: Let me assure you, and this

fine Tom turkey that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy. LISA DESJARDINS: The event has become a centerpiece of White House holiday tradition. BILL CLINTON: This is the eighth I have had the privilege to meet and set free in the Rose Garden. (LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: Some birds have more flare than others, like Jerry the turkey, who sported a White House pass around his neck in 2000. And some years add more fun, like, in 2004, when the George W. Bush White House let online voters choose the turkeys' names. GEORGE W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: This is an election year, and Biscuits

had to earn his spot at the White House. Biscuits and his running mate, Gravy, prevailed over the ticket of Patience and Fortitude. LISA DESJARDINS: The tradition adjusts to the times. Last year, President Donald Trump pardoned Corn and Cob at a time when the pandemic kept most families apart for Thanksgiving. The president offered hope for a reprieve from disease. DONALD TRUMP, Former President of the United States: We give thanks for the vaccines and therapies that will soon end the pandemic.

LISA DESJARDINS: In contrast, this year's event, post-vaccine, featured a live jam-band, a spread-out crowd, toasts and puns about booster shots. JOE BIDEN: Yes, instead of getting basted, these two turkeys are getting boosted. LISA DESJARDINS: All Peanut Butter and his wingman, Jelly, know is that their journey from a farm in Jasper, Indiana won't end in an oven or fryer this Thanksgiving. They're heading back to the Hoosier State to be academics, or at least near academics, living out their days at Purdue University.

For the turkiest "NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, for many of us, including myself, the COVID-19 pandemic has felt like a roller coaster. Infections are down, then up. Mask mandates are put in place, then dropped, then required again. Poet Jasmine Gardosi was asked by the British charity National Literacy Trust to write a poem about the pandemic, which she did, riding an actual roller coaster.

It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas. JASMINE GARDOSI, Poet: This pandemic? Absolute roller coaster. Wild. But I'm trying to carry on as normal now. That's what everyone else seems to be doing.

And I should be grateful we have got our freedom back. Look at the direction we're going in, on the up, finally emerging into the light, back out there in the real world. And, yes, my social skills have gone off the rails, but I'm getting them back on track.

We have turned a corner, in a good way. And I have loved going back to sweaty gigs and sitting on trains full of people, and shaking hands with absolute strangers, and coughing once and thinking it's COVID. But the path forward is clear, so clear, right? And we have done the hard work. So, shouldn't it be downhill from here? See? Everything's fine. (SCREAMING) JASMINE GARDOSI: It's going smoothly. I have found my rhythm. (SCREAMING) JASMINE GARDOSI: I'm in control. We have taken a turn for the better, and then for the worse,

and then for the better, and then for the -- why does it feel like we're going backwards, and round in circles at the same time? OK, you want the truth? I'm still terrified. I freak out in crowded places. I can't tell where my OCD ends and legitimate COVID anxiety begins. I'm afraid, so I stay home, I lay low, I say no. No matter what's happening with the number of cases, we're still riding through our own waves, like my shielding friends. They're still isolated. We're on the same coaster, different carts, same play, different parts, same storm, different boats, wearing different coats, holding different floats, And just do whatever makes you feel safe. It's more than OK to go at your pace. We have

still come so far, even if we're technically in the same place. AMNA NAWAZ: We're all on the same coaster together. That is the "NewsHour." On the "NewsHour" online, meanwhile, COVID cases in Michigan are spiking just as flu season begins, which means school districts across the state are abruptly canceling classes, moving classroom instruction online, and taking other steps to keep kids and teachers safe. Read more on this growing turmoil on PBS.org/NewsHour.

That's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Amna Nawaz. Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the "NewsHour," thank you for joining us. Please stay safe. We will see you soon.

2021-11-26 11:06

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